Kim Kelly

Australian Author

Category: Real Life

roof aus

WHAT HAVE THE POLES EVER DONE FOR US?

This morning I woke up to the news that cards are being dropped into letterboxes in Britain saying, ‘Leave the EU. No more Polish vermin.’

Vermin.

How long will it be before these faceless bigots bring out the arsenic and brickbats to get rid of them? It makes me shiver for all the Polish people have endured over the past century by way of psychotic hatred from their neighbours – Germany and Russia have both had a go at mass extermination.

But really, what the actual freak is this about?

There’s the theory that Poles are simply an easy target because they’re white. It’s not politically correct to attack a person with brown skin these days, but kicking a Pole is somehow fine. That makes a horrible load of sense, sadly.

But it feels personal this time. It seems most of my forebears – all of them white – have at some point in time been referred to as vermin. Of course I grew up with the stories my Irish grandmother told me about her own experiences of the phenomenon – and I wrote all about it in Wild Chicory. The narrator of that tale, Brigid Boszko, just happens to be half Polish, too, her paternal grandparents having immigrated to Sydney after the Second World War.

The Polish in Australia are everywhere, for me. Polish miners worked the diamond drills that excavated dams for one of our many Eighth Wonders of the World – the Snowy Mountains Hydro. Before that, the geologist Pawel Strzelecki named our highest peak after Poland’s greatest national hero – Tadeusz Kosciuszko – and went on to have the Strzelecki Desert named after himself. And then there was my great great grandfather, Benjamin Mier, who played his part in making me.

As for the world, what would it be without Chopin’s Nocturne In E Flat Major, Op.9 No.2? Even if you don’t know the name of this piece of music, you know it like it’s in your bones – listen to it here.

What would the Battle of Britain have been without Polish Squadron 303, those wildly brave men who brought down some 140 enemy Luftwaffe planes, and flew 9900 combat sorties?

Where would the NHS or Medicare be without Marie Sklodowska Curie’s self-sacrificing studies into radioactivity that, with terrible irony, brought us one of our greatest weapons against cancer?

Today’s irony, I suppose, is that the news also tells us there’s been a flood of Brits applying for Irish citizenship. Ouch.

I am sad for Britain but at the same time whatever slim ties I might have had to that land seem to have stretched to even slighter threads. I am happy to be vermin, if that is what I am.

Na zdrowie. Sláinte. Cheers.

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The photograph above was taken on a recent ramble in Kosciuszko National Park.

Want to read Wild Chicory? Go here.

 

 

 

 

 

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EMBRACING THE CRAZY

Yesterday I finished giving a series of writing workshops in Bathurst, and what a blast they have been.

Twelve months ago, at the very first Bathurst Writers’ & Readers’ Festival, Jen Barry of Books Plus and I received a lot of feedback from writers craving courses and connection in the region. Boy, were they ready to get down and get writing, and chatting about writing, sharing their experiences and hopes. We’ve had a huge amount of fun together, and I’m going to plan some more such get-togethers for next year.

None of this sounds too remarkable, I suppose, but for me this has all been huge.

Twelve months ago I was only just emerging from a long, long period clouded by anxieties that had dogged me, and prevented me from enjoying these kinds of opportunities for, oh, about thirty years. Followers of this blog have heard all about those struggles so I won’t repeat them here. Suffice to say, two years ago, I couldn’t have attended a writing workshop let alone delivered one.

What brought on the change? It seems too easy an answer, but it comes down to the love and belief of others feeding the love and belief in me, so that I could recognise I wasn’t alone in the game, so that I could dare myself to take what have turned out to be some wonderful risks. Dare myself to step out into the sunshine just because it’s there.

It’s all been proof to me that – with this kind of nurturing and a readiness to accept it and nurture it back – we can change our brains in fabulous ways. We can beat our fears.

But it’s also made me reflect on this bloke, pictured above in his natural habitat and traditional costume: my dad, Charlie.

It was his birthday yesterday, and if he was still here, he’d have turned 85, bless his cotton pillow case.

Charlie is probably the main reason I’ve had such difficulties with anxiety. Messy heads really do run in the family, and Dad had a breakdown just after I was born to test the theory. He suffered under the weight of worries I will never know about, because he never shared them.

But what he did share with me, and with everyone around him, was his love for the magic of words and the way they bring us together. He was the kind of English teacher who preferred bowling a few overs at lunchtime with ‘his’ kids by way of a lesson; the kind of father who performed John Cleese silly walks around the ground floor of Grace Brothers at Bondi Junction on Thursday late-night shopping because, well, why not?

Self-proclaimed Professor of Subjective Logic from the University of Little Bay and captain of the German cricket team, in this photo from 1979, Dad was having his customary 5pm beverage in a hotel room somewhere in that ancestral homeland of Germany. In the morning, having forgotten where he was, he walked out onto the balcony to address his people – naked. And burst into song because, well, why not?

The world is so often a sad and terrifying place, so you might as well have some fun.

Thanks Dad, even for the crazy bits, maybe especially for them. I wouldn’t be me without you. And I wouldn’t get the thrill I do from helping others to test their word wings, either. The sheer delight it is to watch another stepping into the sun.

Cheers.

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